Thankful n' Thoughtfull: The Sly Stone Dedicated Chronological Listening Thread

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As discussed here: what dedicated listening thread should we do next (the poll). Since Sylvester Stewart's output is actually fairly self-contained this should take just a few months, going at a clip of a track a day. We'll start at the beginning and then trail off somewhere towards the end... I have compiled a list restricted primarily to things he played and/or sang on (productions/writing credits would have complicated things).

Away we go!

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 15:32 (two months ago) link

oh cool, definitely don't know the early or post riot stuff

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 15:34 (two months ago) link

1. The Stewart Four - On the Battlefield (1952)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hsezfNAW4M

Apparently that's 8yo Sly singing, backed by siblings Freddie, Rose and Vaetta and their mother Lorreta on piano. Crazy how he's already got that raspy grain in his voice. Pretty standard family-style gospel fare for the time. I'd never heard this one before.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 15:38 (two months ago) link

someone better versed than me in the gospel of the era could maybe provide some context - all I know is, like, the Soul Stirrers and Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 15:38 (two months ago) link

Oh cool, I should be able to sync up with this. Switched up my deep plunge into 1990 pop albums (was not doing it for me) and now I'm going through every late-'60s r&b album I have, so Sly is on the docket.

Unparalleled Elegance (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 15:40 (two months ago) link

yeah not super notable other than as you mention, he definitely sounds like "Sly" even at that age

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 15:49 (two months ago) link

I assume he started sneaking cigarettes at the age of four, just to put some scratchiness in his tone

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 16:09 (two months ago) link

just like a baaby

ooga booga-ing for the bourgeoisie (voodoo chili), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 17:51 (two months ago) link

Didn't know we were doing this, but I'm on board!

Maria Edgelord (cryptosicko), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 18:14 (two months ago) link

feel like a lot of Sly's themes are appropriate for the moment - family, isolation, claustrophobia, paranoia, mania etc.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 18:30 (two months ago) link

This is quite literally juvenilia, but it is kind of amazing that we have it at all.

Maria Edgelord (cryptosicko), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 18:35 (two months ago) link

xpost Yeah, and didn't he record a good deal of There's a Riot Going On while lying in bed? Resonant.

Unparalleled Elegance (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 18:38 (two months ago) link

Apparently that's 8yo Sly singing, backed by siblings Freddie, Rose and Vaetta and their mother Lorreta on piano.

Hmmmmm, about that - if Sylvester is 8, Freddie is 5, Rose is 7 and Vaetta is... 2!

Bridge Over Thorley Waters (Tom D.), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 18:48 (two months ago) link

don't look at me, that's just what it said on the youtube credits

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 18:56 (two months ago) link

2. The Stewart Four - Walking in Jesus' Name (1952)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-OKdOgOJ4o

The b-side to yesterday's track. A little bit of boogie woogie thrown in with the gospel, Sly's young voice already sounding remarkably lived in and expressive. Not sure who's playing all those guitar breaks, if that is in fact Freddie that's really impressive for a 5-6 year old. Hearing these early family gospel cuts made me think of how little gospel and the church figure into Sly's ouevre in general - he doesn't have a "Jesus Children of America" or "Have a Talk With God" in his catalog, for example (Stevie is kinda an interesting study in contrasts with Sly)

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 1 April 2020 14:24 (two months ago) link

these really are juvenilia in the sense that they don't signal too much of where he was headed - unlike the juvenilia of Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson, which were genuine pop hits and played a big part in establishing their identities as artists.

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 1 April 2020 17:10 (two months ago) link

Give him a break, he is only 8!

Bridge Over Thorley Waters (Tom D.), Wednesday, 1 April 2020 17:15 (two months ago) link

lol

bookmarked, looking forward to this

sleeve, Wednesday, 1 April 2020 17:33 (two months ago) link

lol LOOK HOW FUCKING YOUNG THEY ARE

I wasn't doing shit except eating Bugles and watching Happy Days reruns

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 1 April 2020 17:44 (two months ago) link

I like this one a lot better, gives his voice, which as Shakes said is remarkably distinctive even at that age, more room to shine

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 1 April 2020 17:46 (two months ago) link

I like this one better too. Livelier arrangement and more distinctive vocals from young Sly.

Maria Edgelord (cryptosicko), Wednesday, 1 April 2020 19:17 (two months ago) link

I'm gonna live a Christian life
God knows I'm not ashamed

coco vide (pomenitul), Wednesday, 1 April 2020 19:27 (two months ago) link

this is getting ahead of ourselves, but when digging up that youtube the next video that got queued up was Sly on Letterman in 1983 doing If You Want Me To Stay and oof that was quite a transition

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 1 April 2020 19:30 (two months ago) link

lol

really dig both these tracks. interesting enough even if they don’t necessarily have a lot to reveal about what was to come.

but yeah, what a voice !

budo jeru, Wednesday, 1 April 2020 22:16 (two months ago) link

3. The Biscaynes - Uncle Sam Needs You (1961)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1d_80NtY3E

Apart from the bizarre lyric, which I haven't quite managed to parse yet, this reminds me of the kind of stuff Johnny Otis was cutting at the time. Definitely not gospel, more in that space where doo wop, rock n roll and R&B overlap. Not sure what the level of Sly's involvement with this was, apart from the couple of solo vocal lines he gets in the breaks.

Οὖτις, Thursday, 2 April 2020 15:05 (two months ago) link

also looks like this was a mixed-race group...? and none of the other Stewart family members involved?

Οὖτις, Thursday, 2 April 2020 17:30 (two months ago) link

This is where I admit, with some embarrassment, that I had no idea about any of Sly's pre-Family Stone career.

Maria Edgelord (cryptosicko), Thursday, 2 April 2020 17:42 (two months ago) link

It didn't exactly set the heather on fire tbf.

Bridge Over Thorley Waters (Tom D.), Thursday, 2 April 2020 18:07 (two months ago) link

yeah this is all pretty obscure, he was on the margins until "Swim" and the Beau Brummels

Οὖτις, Thursday, 2 April 2020 18:24 (two months ago) link

I don't even know about any of that!

sleeve, Thursday, 2 April 2020 18:25 (two months ago) link

I just recently read mystery train and learned all this too

brimstead, Thursday, 2 April 2020 18:28 (two months ago) link

I remember a story about him producing a rock band and them being so inept he ended up playing all the instruments himself on their record.

Bridge Over Thorley Waters (Tom D.), Thursday, 2 April 2020 18:31 (two months ago) link

^^Supposedly The Great Society (featuring Grace Slick).

"...And the Gods Socially Distanced" (C. Grisso/McCain), Thursday, 2 April 2020 18:48 (two months ago) link

I thought it might be them!

Bridge Over Thorley Waters (Tom D.), Thursday, 2 April 2020 18:50 (two months ago) link

Is there a released recording of that

Οὖτις, Thursday, 2 April 2020 18:55 (two months ago) link

Cuz I dont have it in the queu

Οὖτις, Thursday, 2 April 2020 18:55 (two months ago) link

Aside from like the Little Sister and 6ix singles, I know basically nothing about Sly's extra-Family affairs. So this thread is welcome for numerous reasons.

Unparalleled Elegance (Old Lunch), Thursday, 2 April 2020 18:58 (two months ago) link

from Wikipedia:

While signed to Autumn Records, the band worked with the label's staff producer Sylvester Stewart (better known as Sly Stone), who at the time was still in the process of forming Sly and the Family Stone. Purportedly, Stewart eventually walked out as the band's producer after it took The Great Society over 50 takes to record a version of the song "Free Advice" that was suitable for release.

lines up with this

https://www.discogs.com/The-Great--Society--Someone-To-Love-Free-Advice/master/519426

But I don't want to drop $300 to find out what it sounds like

justice 4 CCR (Sparkle Motion), Thursday, 2 April 2020 19:19 (two months ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQXd0IIxzOE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEVOyvf8Kq0

If Wikipedia's to be believed there should be 48 more of these.

justice 4 CCR (Sparkle Motion), Thursday, 2 April 2020 19:23 (two months ago) link

such a terrible band

Οὖτις, Thursday, 2 April 2020 19:32 (two months ago) link

oddly, a few months ago I pulled out the first Sly & the Family album, the one with no hits, and listened to it for the first time…I was startled upon hearing one song that it is the basis of a huge huge huge hip-hop hit that everyone reading these words knows…I look forward to when Shakes gets to it in a week or whenever…I think that it's clear that the Dance to the Music album has the tremendous title track and a bunch of engaging filler that was cut pretty fast to satiate Clive Davis…Life and obviously Stand but also the first one are far more solid…

veronica moser, Thursday, 2 April 2020 19:39 (two months ago) link

I know that's what people say about the "Dance to the Music" album but I don't agree fwiw.

Bridge Over Thorley Waters (Tom D.), Thursday, 2 April 2020 19:52 (two months ago) link

Some background on the Viscaynes tracks:

Jerry Martini: The Viscaynes were a Vallejo singing group that was very hip and very unique because it was an integrated band. They had a Filipino. Sly was the Afro. There were girls and boys and different colors...He [Sly] had a hell of a time back then because when he was in the Viscaynes, he was hammering one of the girls in the band, the most beautiful girl, and they had to keep it a secret. He had all this talent and was so far beyond this racial bullshit that was going on back then that it had to affect his psyche a little bit. It was just bullshit... they had to sneak around. When I met him, he was hanging out with Joe Piazza. I played with Joe Piazza and the Continentals. We started doing side gigs together. We were the backup band and we also did Sly's first record, "Yellow Moon", backed with "Uncle Sam Needs You Boy". It didn't get off the ground. Sly sang lead on both sides. He sang high on one side and low on the other side. He had incredible range. It was just a single, but it got him the attention of Bob Mitchell and Tom Donahue, who hired him to work at Autumn Records.

Οὖτις, Thursday, 2 April 2020 19:55 (two months ago) link

Sounds like they probably spent more on the bus fares to the studio than the actual recording - if it was recorded in a studio, the vocals sound like they were recorded in a bathroom.

Bridge Over Thorley Waters (Tom D.), Thursday, 2 April 2020 20:28 (two months ago) link

not sure what quality studios were available in the Sacramento/Vallejo corridor at the time, probably not a lot if any

Οὖτις, Thursday, 2 April 2020 20:49 (two months ago) link

4. The Viscaynes (or Biscaynes?) - Yellow Moon (1961)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYO307vnrH0

Οὖτις, Friday, 3 April 2020 15:29 (two months ago) link

this feels like pretty straight doo-wop, his voice in fine form. Interesting how different all these tracks are, stylistically.

Οὖτις, Friday, 3 April 2020 15:33 (two months ago) link

A lot of the details around these early singles - date of release, titles, names of artists, etc. - seem pretty fluid and hard to untangle.

Οὖτις, Friday, 3 April 2020 16:32 (two months ago) link

That you're making the attempt at all is a public service, and I thank u.

Unparalleled Elegance (Old Lunch), Friday, 3 April 2020 16:44 (two months ago) link

I'm just making it up as I go along.

Οὖτις, Friday, 3 April 2020 16:46 (two months ago) link

Martini says that track was released under the Viscaynes (and he gets the backing band right) but the label says "Biscaynes" and it's shown up on comps under both names so... whatever

Οὖτις, Friday, 3 April 2020 16:47 (two months ago) link

according to discogs "biscaynes" was a misprint on this single which was reissued with the name corrected to viscaynes.

visiting, Friday, 3 April 2020 17:10 (two months ago) link

I prefer his earlier material.

Bridge Over Thorley Waters (Tom D.), Friday, 3 April 2020 17:18 (two months ago) link

I was thinking "How on earth does Sly Stone make it through this?" but then the fact that he's still alive speaks to something about his resilience. Love "Free Advice."

clemenza, Monday, 6 April 2020 04:32 (one month ago) link

the discography in the back of "Sly and the Family Stone: Off the Record" seems exhaustive, also details what he did on various productions, I'm going to lean on that pretty heavily. He had a handful of singles out in 1961, the chronology of which I am not clear on, so I'm just going to go through the remainder of them this week.

Οὖτις, Monday, 6 April 2020 15:21 (one month ago) link

5. The Viscaynes - Heavenly Angel (1961)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAtVkphZE0k

I'm a sucker for these 6/8 doo-wop ballads, and the arrangement actually sounds pretty dense - there's clearly different vocal tracks overdubbed (listen to that echo!), plus the saxophone augmenting the standard guitar-bass-drums-piano combo. I feel like this would have been in Lou Reed's 45 collection.

Οὖτις, Monday, 6 April 2020 20:35 (one month ago) link

This is nice, and I'm glad I have an excuse to hear this stuff, but I confess I'm getting a bit anxious to get to the Family Stone.

Maria Edgelord (cryptosicko), Monday, 6 April 2020 21:26 (one month ago) link

yr gonna have to wait a couple weeks :)

Οὖτις, Monday, 6 April 2020 21:27 (one month ago) link

Can't say I much care for the juvenilia so far.

Publius Covidius Naso (pomenitul), Monday, 6 April 2020 21:30 (one month ago) link

Not a great fan of doo-wop so I'm not getting much out of any of this tbh.

Did somebody just say eat? (Tom D.), Monday, 6 April 2020 21:32 (one month ago) link

I used to have a comp of pre-Family Stone stuff and I don't remember any of it being much good. I'm prepared to change my opinion though.

Did somebody just say eat? (Tom D.), Monday, 6 April 2020 21:33 (one month ago) link

for my part I can't say I love any of this either, they're basically curiosities, not bad but not really absorbing either.

Οὖτις, Monday, 6 April 2020 21:39 (one month ago) link

but these threads are about being completists, goddammit, you can't bail at the beginning!

Οὖτις, Monday, 6 April 2020 21:39 (one month ago) link

buncha whiners imo

budo jeru, Monday, 6 April 2020 21:43 (one month ago) link

for real

Οὖτις, Monday, 6 April 2020 21:43 (one month ago) link

I'm here till the bitter end!

Did somebody just say eat? (Tom D.), Monday, 6 April 2020 21:43 (one month ago) link

Not going anywhere; just not finding a whole lot to say about these songs yet.

Maria Edgelord (cryptosicko), Monday, 6 April 2020 21:45 (one month ago) link

yeah this is interesting, good work Shakey

donald failson (sic), Monday, 6 April 2020 21:52 (one month ago) link

"Yellow Moon" is great. Sly!

timellison, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 04:33 (one month ago) link

Re. earlier discussion: other rock bands he produced were the Vejtables and the Mojo Men.

timellison, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 04:38 (one month ago) link

And Psyrkle aka Crazy Horse

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 04:43 (one month ago) link

Wow, that's an obscure one. Neither the band nor that entire record label (apparently a subsidiary of Autumn) seem to be on Discogs.

timellison, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 04:59 (one month ago) link

6. The Viscaynes - Stop What You Are Doing (1961)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg_LeUbz9ts

The Viscaynes second single. Around this same time, Sly put out a couple 45s under his own name (or some variation thereof), which we will get to shortly. That kinda doesn't sound like Sly singing lead to me on this one. Fine but not particularly remarkable doo-wop imo.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 14:46 (one month ago) link

That kinda doesn't sound like Sly singing lead to me on this one.

You don't say? I would have thought this stuff was maybe a bit out of date in 1961?

Did somebody just say eat? (Tom D.), Tuesday, 7 April 2020 16:00 (one month ago) link

not really, doo-wop's peak is late 50s/early 60s. Dion was killin it in 1961 for ex.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 16:05 (one month ago) link

For what it's worth: there was definitely a revival around that time--probably the commercial peak, yeah--but I think most of the greatest doo-wop was the first wave in the early/mid-'50s: "In the Still of the Nite," Moonglows, Flamingos, Drifters, Nolan Strong, "Earth Angel," etc.

clemenza, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 16:24 (one month ago) link

yeah, quality is a different argument. Commercially it was still a viable form in 1961.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 16:28 (one month ago) link

Not coincidental to the commercial peak: it definitely got a lot whiter during the revival. Some of which--Dion, the Diamonds' "Little Darlin'," the Capris' "There's a Moon Out Tonight," etc.--was pretty great.

clemenza, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 17:24 (one month ago) link

Maybe it was a west coast thing, but this record is 1963 and this was a black group.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lq0I8MAz3H4

timellison, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 18:34 (one month ago) link

I'm sure it was still popular in the west coast Latinx community even later than that. Something like "Sad Girl" by Thee Midnighters still has that 6/8 groove going.

timellison, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 18:36 (one month ago) link

1963:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJ_unB6ODy8

timellison, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 18:47 (one month ago) link

And if you guys will indulge me (sorry, I love this stuff), one more. Black group, L.A., 1962.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe1d0b4Y--I

timellison, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 18:54 (one month ago) link

You know, I think when it comes to someone like Zappa, this is something that's misunderstood. When the Mothers started out playing in this style, it was not actually some archaic, defunct form of music. It was current. (See also Beefheart's "I'm Glad.")

timellison, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 18:56 (one month ago) link

7. The Viscaynes - I Guess I'll Be (1961)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv0lkEkKUQ0

The b-side to "Stop What You Are Doing" (both tracks also credited in some places to the Viscaynes and the Ramblers).

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 15:21 (one month ago) link

hard to detect Sly in this mix, although I assume he had a hand in the writing/arrangement but who knows.

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 18:31 (one month ago) link

i really like this one !

kinda has a “dream lover” lite vibe

budo jeru, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 19:24 (one month ago) link

def a bit of the Bobby Darin version in that guitar pattern

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 20:11 (one month ago) link

three weeks pass...

Was just reading about how Jeff Miller, one of the students killed at Kent State, was a big Sly and the Family Stone fan and would travel to see them play. His brother wrote this letter for this year's commemoration, which is tomorrow, the 50th anniversary.

https://www.kent.edu/sites/default/files/file/russ_miller_letter_0.pdf

timellison, Sunday, 3 May 2020 21:49 (one month ago) link

Still no sign of Shakey.

Angry Question Time Man's Flute Club Band (Tom D.), Sunday, 3 May 2020 22:15 (one month ago) link

yeah, strange.

budo jeru, Monday, 4 May 2020 00:02 (four weeks ago) link


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